Small town businesses going out of their ordinary practices to stay open during coronavirus threat

Jonathan Blundall takes an order for a take-and-bake meal at Reid's Beans in West Branch on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)
Jonathan Blundall takes an order for a take-and-bake meal at Reid's Beans in West Branch on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Mar. 25, 2020 at 6:43 PM CDT
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As more people stay home, more businesses are choosing to temporarily close until the threat of the novel coronavirus has passed.

For some small-town businesses, closing is not an option, so they are changing to ensure they keep their doors open.

If you take the West Branch exit off of Interstate 80, businesses like Reid's Beans are still open.

"[A] vast majority of our clientele are 60 and up," Jonathan Blundall, co-owner of Reid's Beans, said. "They're usually retired people."

For a town with keystone places, including its restaurants and the nearby Herbert Hoover National Historic site, closures due to the novel coronavirus make a big impact.

"Walk-in customers from the national park, the library museum, we're not going to see those for a while," Roger Laughlin, West Branch mayor, said.

Rather than close, small business owners like Blundall are opening new doors to revamp what they offer in their day-to-day operations. The eatery and coffee shop has gone from a sit-down place for breakfast and lunch, to serving up items for people to take and bake at home.

Bludall said the results they have seen are in the orders they have taken.

"When something like this happens, it really makes you appreciate what a small community brings," Blundall said.

Around the corner in downtown West Branch at Herb and Lou's, ownership needed to make some changes, too. Relying a little bit less on the bar, and a lot more on hitting the streets with their pizza.

"We're using our bartenders as delivery drivers so they get some hours, keeping everybody on the payroll, trying to rotate some hours among our part-timers," Dustin Hills, a manager at Herb and Lou's, said.

Considering beer sales typically make up a large portion of business, focusing solely on food, is a large change. Staff said they are getting sales from those that live in West Branch, and others outside of it.

"That means a lot to us to know that we're appreciated and that people are behind us when we're going through a tough time," Hills said.

As the saying goes, "tough times don't last." In this case, tough communities do.

"And if you're the owner of a restaurant, we got some work to do ahead of us," Blundall said.

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